Tag Archives: Supervisor Terry Gonser

Editorial Comment: Candidates for Oakland Township Supervisor

As many of you know, this website has two editors, Jim Foulkrod and myself (Richard Michalski). Generally we agree on most topics. One clear example of this, shared with many in our Township, is that our current Supervisor, Terry Gonser, cannot be re-elected as Supervisor due to the many inappropriate things he has done while Supervisor. A long documented list of these actions can be reviewed in the following post:

Post summarizing the many examples of Terry Gonser’s ‘ethics’ while in office.

However, Jim and I disagree on who is most qualified to be our next Supervisor. I would like to share with you my reasons why I think Mike Bailey is the most qualified candidate. I will also make a suggestion that may help achieve our mutual goal of ensuring Terry Gonser does not get re-elected in a three person race.

In one of my previous posts, I listed qualities I felt were important in our next Supervisor. Here they are again:

  • Township experience, especially in Township planning
  • Knowledge of how our Township works,
  • An understanding of the issues we are facing,
  • Personal involvement in resolving the many issues,
  • No desire to change our form of governance
  • No desire to use the Supervisor position as a jumping point for higher political positions

I will comment on each of these as they relate to Terry Gonser, Andy Zale and Mike Bailey.

Township experience

Terry Gonser got elected with no Township governance experience. He won the support of many because he was an outspoken advocate on several volatile issues our Township faced in 2012. Many former supporters now admit that they had not properly vetted Terry. His lack of Township governance experience contributed to the massive dysfunction in our Township over the past term.

Andy Zale was elected in 2012 as a Parks & Recreation Commissioner. He was selected as the Commission’s chairperson. He has done a marvelous job chairing the often-contentious meetings. However, Andy has not participated, or made his opinions known on the many issues our Township has faced over the past 4 years. He has only participated in Township Board meetings when there were Parks issues that needed to be addressed.

Mike Bailey has been personally involved in our Township for 28 years. He and I shared many of them on the Planning Commission. Much of what we see and love in our Township is due to the great planning that has occurred. Mike has been an integral part of that. More recently, he has been on the Township Board, and has continued to serve our community in a positive manner.

 Knowledge of how our Township works

Supervisor Gonser came into office with no knowledge of how our Township works. Two groups of employees in our Township joined unions during his tenure, the Firefighters and the Parks and Recreation employees. Their decision was the direct result of the actions of Terry Gonser and others on the Board. Many talented staff members, who helped create our great Township, left their positions during his term in office and now serve other communities.

Andy Zale is gaining an understanding of how our Township works; however, his Parks experience is only one small piece of our Township. More experience will help him.

Mike on the other hand has worked with all the departments involved in our Township as a Planning Commissioner and Trustee. He knows why our Township has benefitted from having a professional Township Manager over the years (more on this issue later).

Understanding of the issues we are facing

Terry Gonser certainly has a good understanding of the issues facing our Township. He has contributed in creating many of them. We have not been able to solve many longstanding issues because valuable time has been lost searching for a Township manager that could work with, and around, Terry’s authoritarian, omnipotent and omniscient behavior.

As stated earlier, Andy is on a learning curve. In discussions with others who have been talking with Andy, he is attempting to get an understanding of the issues, and he needs to be complemented for his efforts.

On the other hand, Mike needs no ‘ramping up’. As an existing Board member, he is ‘in the know’ on all of the major issues facing our Township.

Personal involvement in resolving current issues

Certainly, as the Township Supervisor, Gonser should be involved in resolving our issues. However, his solutions and positions on issues are often the ‘minority position’ on the Board. Differences of opinion are good, however, voters should review Terry’s position on many of the votes that have taken place.  Our other elected representative officials often do not agree with his positions, or where he would take us.

Andy has done a great job in resolving issues on the Parks and Recreation Commission. He has not gotten involved in many other issues in our Township.

Mike has, and is, actively participated in many of the subcommittees that the Board has established to deal with issues facing our Township. He has also participated in many volunteer efforts representing out Township such as ‘clean scene’.

No desire to change our Township’s form of governance

Terry Gonser, and former Trustee Maureen Thalmann, wasted many hours at Township Board meetings trying to convince the Board that we should have a ‘Stong Supervisor’ form of governance in our Township. This would eliminate the full time professional Township administrator, and have the Supervisor be the full time person who would make the day-to-day administrative decisions in our Township. Terry never disclosed his desire to change our Township’s form of governance prior to being elected.

In my initial conversation with Andy Zale, before he announced his candidacy for Supervisor, I asked him his position on having a ‘Strong Supervisor’ or a ‘Manager’ form of government in Oakland Township. His response was “I can see the benefits of both.”   He would not take a position on this matter at that time. More recently, when asked the question again, he indicated that he supported the ‘Manager’ form of governance, but added, “I have spoken with Orion Township Supervisor Barnett, and see the benefits of that form of governance.” Andy added that he had a full time job, and would not be able to be a full time Supervisor. From my standpoint, this is almost a disqualifying position on the matter. Having personally listened to the many arguments on both sides of this issue in Township Board meeting, Andy’s ambiguity on this issue indicated that he did not yet understand Oakland Township’s governance needs. Fortunately, he has now taken the position that he does not support the ‘Strong Supervisor’ form of governance. More exposure to how our Township works will hopefully solidify his position on this matter.

Mike not only understands the benefits of having a profession Township manager, but has strongly stated he is opposed to the ‘Strong Supervisor’ form of governance.

No desire to use the Supervisor position as a political jumping off point

Others have told me that Terry Gonser had, and may still have, ambitions for running for higher public offices. I cannot confirm this, but I have heard it from a number of individuals. My opinion is that our elected officials need to focus on the job they were elected to fill. All energy should be spent on serving the will of their electorate; not taking actions that would be self-serving for future political desires.

In a recent conversation I had with Andy, he indicated that his first choice was to run for State Representative. Others told him that he did not have the experience, and needed more time in an elected position at the local level. That is why he chose to run for Township Supervisor.

In a recent conversation I had with Mike, he confirmed that he had no aspirations to higher elected office. He wanted to spend time helping Oakland Township move forward in a manner that maintains the beauty and character that has made it the place we all love to live.

EXPERIENCE MATTERS!

WE KNOW WHAT WE HAVE WITH MIKE BAILEY!

 

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township, and what can you do about it? Our Township cannot afford to have another four year of Terry Gonser as our Supervisor. We currently have two additional candidates, Andy Zale and Mike Bailey. Either would be a significant improvement over Terry Gonser.

With three candidates in the running, the potential for Gonser to win increases. Several citizens have commented that if Terry wins, we would lose the valued services of both Andy and Mike.

I have expressed my opinion as to whom I prefer for Supervisor. You may or may not agree, but if you agree that either would be better for our Township than Terry Gonser, and you would like to see both Andy and Mike continue to serve our Township, I suggest you visit the following websites, and email your preferred candidate letting him know of your support AND also email the other candidate, encouraging him to run for Trustee. We do need both of these valued individuals serving our Township.  Please send your emails soon, so Andy or Mike can revise their decision regarding which office to run for prior to the filing deadline of April 19th.

We cannot afford to loose the service of both.

Here are their websites:

Andy Zale                   http://www.AndyZale.com

Mike Bailey                http://www.MikeBaileySupervisor.com

Thank You!

Richard Michalski

 

 

 

 

 

Supervisor Gonser announces his plans to run again

Current Supervisor Terry Gonser had a campaign ‘kick-off’ event on March 3, 2016 at the WestWynd Grill for his plans to run for re-election as Supervisor.  He is the third candidate who has announced for that position.  The other two announcements are Mike Bailey and Andy Zale.

2016 KICKOFF INVITATION PDF

Richard Michalski

 

IMPORTANT: Draft Ordinance controlling Oil and Gas drilling in Oakland Township in jeopardy

The efforts of our Township Board to control the location of oil and gas drilling operations in Oakland Township may be impacted by a memo from the Michigan DEQ.  The DEQ’s position is in response to a request from Supervisor Gonser.   As you may recall, Supervisor Gonser was opposed to moving forward with the Ordinance at the January BOT meeting.  The outcome of Oakland Township’s proposed Ordinance may be in jeopardy.

As previously reported on this website, the Oakland Township Board is considering an Ordinance to control the location of Oil and Gas drilling in Oakland Township.  A second reading of that Ordinance is schedule for the February 9, 2016 Board meeting.  Supervisor Gonser had previously expressed concerns over the Township’s authority to control oil and gas drilling. He voted against moving forward with the draft ordinance.  He contacted the DEQ and asked for their input.  Mr. Harold Fitch, the Assistant Supervisor of wells and Chief office of Oil and Gas & Minerals responded by saying:

“As demonstrated by the definitions (in the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act), the DEQ considers a broad range of operations as subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Supervisor of wells and not subject to regulations by Township’s or Counties.”

He basically is saying we, as a Township, do not have any control over the location or operation of oil and gas drilling in our Township.

Here is a copy of his entire response to Supervisor Gonser’s request:

February 2, 2016 DEQ letter

Other communities have been struggling with this issue.  Townships have less control over oil and gas drilling operations than cities. However, Rochester Hills has been involved in recent disputes over their authority to control drilling in their city.  More recently, Southfield has been dealing with this issue.  Here are two current links to the Southfield issue:

Southfield Public meeting on Oil and Gas Drilling in their community

Rep. Jeremy Moss (Southfield) bill to control Oil and Gas Drilling locations

Here is a copy of our draft ordinance:

Janaury 12, BOT meeting agenda and Oil:Gas draft ordinance

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Oakland Township may not have much control over oil and gas drilling in our community.  However, we should pursue as much control as possible within the constraints of the law.  At the January BOT meeting, our Township attorney and planning consultants both agreed with what is being proposed in the draft ordinance.  I trust that Supervisor Gonser’s requested input from the DEQ does not change their position on the proposed ordinance.

So what can we do:

  • Attend the February 9, 2016 Board meeting to express your opinion after listening to the discussion by our Township Attorney, Planning Consultant and Board members.
  • If not able to attend the February 9th meeting, watch the proceedings on the Township website, or Comcast cable channel, to learn more about this issue.
  • Contact your State representatives (Michael Webber <michaelwebber@house.mi.gov> or Brad Jacobsen <bradjacobsen@house.mi.gov>) asking them to support Representative Moss’ bill allowing more local control over oil and gas drilling locations.

Richard Michalski

 

UPDATE: Township Board approves first read of Oil and Gas Structure ordinance

At the January 12, 2016 Oakland Township Board meeting, the ‘first read’ of the proposed Oil and Gas Structure Ordinance was approved.  There were several citizens that commented on the draft ordinance.  Supervisor Gonser was the sole dissenting vote.  He wanted to get input from the State and the DNR to get their perspective on how defensible the ordinance would be.

The second read of the Ordinance, and the vote on approval of the Ordinance, is on the agenda for the February 9, 2016 BOT meeting.

Here is a link to the most recent post on this subject:

URGENT REQUEST: Please attend January 12 Board meeting if concerned about Oil and Gas Drilling in Oakland Township

Thanks to all those that attended the meeting!

Richard Michalski

URGENT REQUEST: Please attend January 12 Board meeting if concerned about Oil and Gas Drilling in Oakland Township

Shelby well rig (1)

As previously reported on this website, the Oakland Township Board and Planning Commission agreed to develop an ordinance that would minimize the impact of Oil and Gas drilling in Oakland Township, while protecting individual property rights and still be compliant with Michigan regulations.  The Planning Commission has spent several months working on a draft ordinance.  The draft ordinance was discussed at the December 8, 2015 Township Board meeting.  At that meeting the Board agreed, in a 6 to 1 vote, that the ‘first read’ of the ordinance would take place at the January 12, 2016 Board meeting.  Supervisor Gonser was the single dissenting vote.  He wanted to take more time to study the draft ordinance.  

Public input at Tuesday’s meeting is critical.  It will ensure the Board understands the level of citizen support, and any concerns you may have with the draft ordinance.

PLEASE ATTEND THIS MEETING IF YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT THE IMPACT OF OIL AND GAS DRILLING IN OUR COMMUNITY! 

                                              DATE:     TUESDAY, JANUARY 12, 2016

                                             TIME:  7 PM      

                                             LOCATION: OAKLAND TOWNSHIP HALL – 4393 COLLINS RD.

HERE IS A COPY OF THE AGENDA & DRAFT ORDINANCE THAT WAS POSTED ON TOWNSHIP WEBSITE ON JANUARY 8:

Janaury 12, BOT meeting agenda and Oil:Gas draft ordinance

A lobbyist for the Petroleum industry was at the December 8, 2015 BOT meeting and attempted to influence the Board members.  His arguments for why Oakland Township should not pass a local ordinance controlling oil and gas drilling were:

  • Just because other communities have an ordinance is not a reason for Oakland Township to have one
  • There are no pending oil or gas drilling permits in Oakland Township
  • State law controlling oil and gas drilling is preferable
  • There will be administrative costs associated with an ordinance
  • Local Auto manufacturers are benefiting from the sale of big profitable SUV’s and trucks due to low oil and gas prices
  • There are many people currently laid off in oil industry due to low oil and gas prices
  • There may be legal challenges (and associated costs) as a result of an ordinance
  • There is no ‘fracking’ in Oakland County
  • Legal challenges could be based on ‘property rights taking’
  • Oil and gas drilling ON STATE PROPERTIES generates revenue for the Michigan Natural Resource Trust Fund (MNRTF)
  • Oakland Township has been recipient of grant funds from the MNRTF

Here are previous articles posted on this website regarding this topic:

Supervisor Gonser opposes Township establishing ordinance to minimize impact of oil and gas drilling in Oakland Township

Oakland Township Board implements 6 month moratorium on new oil or gas drilling in Oakland Township

“Oil and Gas Drilling” is on July 14, 2015 Oakland Township Board meeting agenda

Results of June 23, 2015 BOT discussion on Oil and Gas drilling in Oakland Township

UPDATE: Oil and Gas well sites in Oakland Township and Surrounding Communities

JUNE 21st UPDATE: Is Drilling for Oil and Gas coming to Oakland Township? Please attend June 23 Board meeting!

JUNE 17th UPDATE: Is Drilling for Oil and Gas coming to Oakland Township (Church property)?

Is Drilling for Oil and Gas coming to Oakland Township?

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Even though the likelihood of new oil and gas drilling is currently low due to the low cost of oil and gas prices, our community needs to take whatever action is within our legal authority to protect our community from future undesirable oil and gas drilling, while protecting individual property rights.

Richard Michalski

January 8, 2016

Were residents misled by Supervisor Gonser regarding the Parks and Recreation Commission’s legal fees?

This website has recently reported on legal expenses incurred by our Township.  One of our discoveries has resulted in a $9,000 per year savings to our Township.  As we continued our investigation, Bob Yager, the editor for the Oakland Township Sentinel LLC, made a discovery that raised a question regarding what really is covered in our Township’s monthly legal retainer fee.  

During 2014, former Trustee Thalmann repeatedly accused the Parks and Recreation Commission (PRC) of ‘wasting’ Township funds by using a different law firm, since the retainer fee for the Township Board’s law firm allegedly included PRC legal support. Supervisor Gonser never corrected the repeated accusations even though a year earlier, at a PRC meeting, Supervisor Gonser made a commitment that Thalmann’s accusations would not occur.

Here is the chronology of events:

  • On February 26, 2013, the Township Board approved a contract with our current Township legal service firm,  Giarmarco, Mullen and Horton P.C.
  • On February 27, 2013, the Parks and Recreation Commission discussed the Board’s decision regarding legal support.
  • The minutes from the February 27, 2013 PRC meeting state:

“Supervisor Gonser was present and explained that the Board solicited quotes for legal services. They agreed to contract with a firm for a not-to-exceed amount for one year, and that this figure anticipated that the new firm would provide legal services to the PRC. However, the amount would be reduced if the PRC chooses to obtain legal services through a different firm.”

  • At the March 13, 2013  PRC meeting, the PRC decided to keep the legal firm they had been using for years. It was not the same firm that the Township Board was using.
  • Between January 14, 2014 and Ocotober 14, 2014, former trustee Thalmann repeatedly accused the PRC of wasting money by using their own attorney rather than using the Board’s legal firm, which allegedly was covered in the Township’s monthly retainer fee..
  • Not once, after the repeated accusations by former Trustee Thalmann, did Supervisor Gonser challenge the accuracy of her statements, even though he stated on Febraury 27, 2013 that what she said would not occur.

Here are video clips of Trustee Thalmann’s repeated accusations made on:

  1. January 14, 2014 BOT
  2. February 11, 2014 BOT
  3. March 11, 2014 BOT
  4. September 23, 2014 BOT
  5. October 14, 2014 BOT

 

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township? Many citizens still believe that the Township is paying for legal fees that are unnecessary.  The Supervisor has never clarified this issue.

With this documentation, one of three things must be true:

  • The original monthly retainer fee was reduced to reflect the decision the PRC made to keep their own legal support firm, BUT Supervisor Gonser never felt it necessary to correct the multiple erroneous statements made by former Trustee Thalmann.

or

  • The original monthly retainer fee never included the PRC legal services, BUT Supervisor Gonser never felt it necessary to correct the erroneous statements made by former Trustee Thalmann.

or

  • Supervisor Gonser never reduced the monthly retainer fee to reflect the decision the PRC made to keep their own legal support firm, AND we are continuing to pay more for legal services than what is necessary.

We will request the the Board clarify this issue and report on it in a future post.  We are either paying more for legal services than what we need to be paying, or Supervisor Gonser’s ‘silence’ on this matter was an ‘act of omission’.

Richard Michalski

 

 

Supervisor Gonser’s false allegations and inconsistent comments and examples of his ‘ethics’ while in office

At the September 22, 2015 BOT meeting, Supervisor Gonser made many allegations about former Manager Warren Brown.  Trustee Ferriolo discovered that the Supervisor’s allegations were unsubstantiated.  At the October 13, 2015 BOT meeting, Supervisor Gonser made a statement that was not consistent with what he had publicly stated at the September 22, 2015 BOT meeting.

At the September 22, 2015 BOT meeting, Supervisor Gonser made many accusations against our former Township Manager, Warren Brown.  Mr. Brown was not present at the meeting to defend himself, since he had already resigned from the position.

Before making the many accusations against Mr. Brown, Supervisor Gonser stated:

“I wanted to express the disappointment I have in our former Township manager. The second week after he came, he asked the Supervisor if I would turn over all the projects I was working on to him, which I did, and that was the last time I spoke to him, or he spoke to me actually. The last time he . . . for a number of weeks.”

Gonser then proceeded to claim that the lack of progress on the projects he mentioned was due to the fact that we do not have a “strong Supervisor” form of governance in Oakland Township, a position both he and former Trustee Thalmann tried to change MANY times over the past 3 years.

Between September 22 and October 13, Trustee Ferriolo did some research to determine if Gonser’s accusations were true.  After consulting with Township Staff, Ferriolo determined that Gonser’s accusations were not true. Trustee Ferriolo commented on his findings at the October 13 BOT meeting. He felt Gonser’s comments were “statements unbecoming a Township Supervisor”.

After Trustee Ferriolo made his comments, Supervisor Gonser attempted to defend himself.  He said:

“Trustee Ferriolo was speaking somewhat beyond his knowledge. There WERE communications between the Supervisor and the former Manager regarding a lot of these project.  They did not get done, so I am simply stating the facts.  I stand by that! “

This statement contradicts what he said at the September 22 BOT meeting.

  • Did he, or did he not speak to Warren Brown about progress on the various projects?  Both statements cannot be true!
  • Was Gonser just trying to defend his unsubstantiated claims?
  • Was Gonser trying to ‘get even’ with Warren Brown, since Mr. Brown made the following statement at the last Board meeting he attended prior to his resignation?

“If the Supervisor cannot admit the error of his ways, fill the chasm, and become more malleable in his approach to his position, he should follow my lead. . . . To offer his resignation would be an act of service for the greater good!”

Here is a transcript of the accusations Gonser made at the September 22 meeting.

Supervisor Gonser’s negative comments about Warren Brown Sept 22, 2015

Here is a video showing a portion of Gonser’s comments at the September 22 meeting, what Trustee Ferriolo said at the October 13 BOT meeting, and Gonser’s statement trying to defend himself.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Supervisor Gonser has yet again failed to live up to one of his stated priorities when he ran for office.  He told the League of Women’s voters that one of his top three priorities, if elected, was Integrity and establishing an Ethics Policy for Oakland Township.  His most recent statement is yet another example of what many citizens have come to expect from our Supervisor.

There are many examples that make clear Mr. Gonser’s ‘personal’ ethical standards. The reader can determine if these actions meet their ethical standards. Here are a few (there are more that could be added).  Each item is linked to a previous post that supports the statement:

Do these actions meet your ‘litmus test’ for ethical behavior?

A person's actions tell you everthing you need to know

Richard Michalski

Insight into Supervisor Gonser’s thinking

A recent post on the Oakland Township Sentinel website provides some insight into Supervisor Gonser’s thinking on a number of issues.

Supervisor Gonser sent a  letter to Mr. Yager (the editor of the website) in response to a plea from Mr. Yager to do a better job of controlling personal attacks during Board meetings.  Mr. Zale, the current chairperson of the Parks and Recreation Commission, has recently been very aggressive in ‘shutting down’ any attempt by citizens or Commission members from making personal attacks.  Gonser’s letter is lengthy and touches on:

  • His thoughts on his ‘legacy’ as Supervisor
  • Why he ran for office
  • His perspective on the reasons for the lack of progress within the Township
  • His thoughts on our Township’s form of governance
  • His vision of leadership
  • Civility in our Township
  • Ethics

If you are interested in learning more about how Mr. Gonser thinks, please click on the link at the end of this post, it will take you to the article referenced above.  

Please read my comments in response to Mr. Gonser’s perspective on a number of items, in particular the specific events referenced in the ‘ethics’ response. These events were major factors in why the “Oakland Township Watcher” website has continued to monitor what goes on in our Township, and are all documented on this website.

Supervisor Gonser Clarifies His Views on Township Manager, Civility and Other Topics

Richard Michalski

Did Supervisor Gonser mislead voters in 2012 election, or did he not understand the job of Supervisor in our Township?

Several things occurred at the September 22, 2015 Oakland Township Board meeting that highlight the need for clear understanding of expectations when we elect our officials. Candidates running for office need to have an understanding of the structure and role for the position they are attempting to fill. If they want to change the structure or role, they should communicate their intentions during the campaign. Similarly, the voters that support the candidates need to have a clear understanding of what to expect from the candidates they support.  The Board’s events at the September 22 meeting indicate we had neither in the election of Supervisor Gonser in the 2012 election. 

At the September 22nd meeting, the Board was forced to make a motion to remove Supervisor Gonser from having a private office.  Shortly after taking office in 2012, the Supervisor got the Board to agree to convert a conference room into an office that all of them could use as a ‘drop in office’.  Over time, the Supervisor has taken over control of that room as his private office.

At the July 14, 2015 Board meeting, the Board approved an office rearrangement that had been under study for some time.  It was unanimously approved by the Board members present.  Gonser was not present at that meeting.  The plan comprehended the increased needs of the Township.  In that plan, the Supervisor and all Board members were provided a desk location that any could use to accomplish business while at the Township Hall.  Since the Supervisor position is a part time position, not a full time position, historically, our Township has not had a dedicated office for the Supervisor (contrary to what Gonser claimed in his Sept 15th email).

As the office rearrangement was ready to begin, Warren Brown, our former Township manager, asked the Supervisor to remove his personal belongings from the office he had taken over.  The Supervisor refused to do so, disregarding the Board’s direction from the July 14th meeting.  The manager’s request, and the Supervisor’s response are shown in the following emails.

Gonser’s demand for personal office

Our Township Attorney advised the Supervisor that he does not have a statutory right to a private office, given the structure of our Township.  Here is a quote from our Township attorney  from the September 22 meeting:

” In this circumstance, given Ordinance 97 and the fact that we are a ‘manager run’ government, I have given the opinion, and I have spoken with the Supervisor about this directly, that I do not believe he is entitled to an office.”

In order to protect our Township’s interim manager Jamie Moore (Warren Brown has resigned) from having to deal with this contentious issue, the Board felt in necessary to make a formal motion to have Gonser remove his things from the room he had been using as his office.  The motion was approved 6 to 1, with Gonser being the dissenting vote.

Gonser responded by saying:

“I guess if the Supervisor chooses to reside back there, I guess Lieutenant Spencer is going to have to be pressed into duty to call the Oakland Press and haul out the Supervisor- not a good scenario!”

Treasurer Langlois responded by saying:

“That’s your choice whether or not that be the scenario.”

Trustee Ferriolo added:

“Absolutely!”

Gonser concluded by saying:

“The Board’s choice.”

Later in the meeting, the Supervisor indicated that until recently, he had been spending 50 to 60 hours per week at the Township Office.  He said he had provided Warren Brown a list of things that he had been working on shortly after Mr. Brown started work in the Township in March of this year.  Gonser went on to say that he was disappointed with the lack of progress on the items during the 5 months that Mr. Brown was here.  Many of these items have been issues long before Mr. Brown came to Oakland Township.

Gonser’s  acknowledgment that he had been working on these items was a clear admission that he had violated Oakland Township’s Ordinance 97.  This behavior is consistent with his repeated personal desire to be a “Strong Supervisor”.  He went on to say that his actions were in response to what he believes are the desires of the people who voted him into office.

So, we have a Supervisor who:

  • disregards the July 14 Board decision regarding his office arrangements (just because he disagrees with it),
  • purposefully violates Ordinance 97 (just because he disagrees with it),
  • bases his actions on what he ‘believes’ the voters want him to do (even though it is contrary to the structure of the position he was elected to fill),
  • flagrantly disregards an Ordinance that he swore to uphold when he took his oath of office (even though he is legally obligated to follow and uphold the Ordinance).

Supervisor Gonser did not make clear, when he was running for office, that he wanted to change the structure of Oakland Township (i.e.. Strong Supervisor, private office, full time job for Supervisor, increased salary), yet he strongly believes that the majority of the citizens who voted for him agree with him.  The Board, by a 6 to 1 vote, have repeatedly indicated they do not agree with him.

Here are video excerpts from the September 22, 2015 BOT meeting:

 

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Expectations for change when a person is running for office need to be clearly communicated by the candidates.  Gonser truly believes that his mandate was to change the structure of Oakland Township’s governance, but he never made his intentions known to citizens during the campaign.  Many citizens, including Board members and previous supporters, have changed their opinion of Supervisor Gonser over the past few years based on his actions.  He is not what they ‘bought into’ when they voted for him.

I guess it is possible that Gonser did not understand the job of Supervisor in our Township prior to being elected.  If that is the case, an argument can be made that his lack of understanding of the position is precisely why a ‘Manager’ form of government is good for our Township.  If he did understand the job of Supervisor, and neglected to communicate his desire to change it, a deception occurred that we cannot let reoccur in 2016.

Our political system relies on our elected officials following through on the things they promised when campaigning.  Having a personal agenda that is hidden from the voters, does not serve the community well.  Ignorance over the job responsibilities does not serve our needs either.  The chaos in our Township over the past three years is due to one of these occurring in our Township.

Richard Michalski

Reasons why Oakland Township’s legal expense has doubled under Supervisor Gonser and the current Board

Since Supervisor Gonser and the new Board took office in 2012, the legal expense for our Township has doubled. Shortly after being elected, the Board changed law firms.  In the 29 months that the new law firm has served the Township, our cumulative legal expense is at $513,000. The legal expense for 29 months under the previous Board was approximately $255,000.  So in 29 months, we have spent $258,000 more than the previous Board.

An analysis was undertaken to determine the reasons for the increase.  A video has been created that shows the results of that analysis, as well as some conclusions and recommendations.  It is rather long, but it gives the detailed background for the conclusions and recommendations.

Here are some key graphs from the analysis:

(click on graphs to expand)

LEGAL FEES OVER TIME

Oakland Township Legal expense

REASONS FOR LEGAL FEES OVER PAST 29 MONTHS

Pareto of legal issues

CURRENT BOARD’S LEGAL FEES vs. PREVIOUS BOARD’S LEGAL FEES

Comparison of legal expense

Here is the video:

The Conclusions from the analysis:
– The primary reason for Township’s legal expense doubling is labor negotiations, employment issues and litigation costs.

– The Township Board is directly responsible for many of the labor, employment and litigation costs.

– Questions exist over Gonser’s authority and justification for increasing the retainer fee without disclosure to fellow Board members or citizens.

– Township published records make it impossible to understand the reasons for litigation costs without using the FOIA process.

Recommendations:
– The Supervisor and the Board need to change their behavior to eliminate what some considered a “hostile environment” that warranted efforts to form unions.

– The Board needs to understand the total cost (legal and associated) before making litigious decisions.

– Supervisor Gonser should explain why he increased the retainer fee from $90k to $108k per year without Board approval or citizen knowledge.

– The Township Manager, with Board approval, needs to Improve the ‘transparency’ of Board packet information by being more descriptive of reasons for litigation.  We should follow what the city of Hamtramck does  (they are also represented by Giarmarco and Mullin). (example shown below)

Hamtramck Legal expense in their Board packets

– The Board should request our Law Firm publish quarterly legal status report like the city of Troy (example shown below)

CIty of Troy 2015 first quarter Litigation report

Reference Material

Legal RFP

Original legal contract- 2013

Revised legal contract- 2015

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Each taxpayer in Oakland Township is now paying twice as much for legal services than they did a few years ago.  This Board ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility, yet they have not questioned the reasons for the higher expense.  Their actions have actually contributed to the higher costs.  Most notably the expense incurred as a result of creating a work environment that drove the unionization of some of our Township staff.

The Oakland Township Watcher website raised the issue of  high legal expense earlier this year.  It was only after we raised the concern, that the Treasurer and/or Clerk discovered an accounting error that resulted  in the Township inappropriately paying for legal services that should have been charged to developer’s escrow accounts.  That action will save our Township $9,000 per year.  It appears our elected officials ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility and transparency, but when it comes to doing the work, citizen involvement is necessary to make sure they do what they said they would do.

As the Board considers the tax rate that we will be paying next year, lowering the tax rate is only one element of fiscal responsibility.  Controlling costs is the other element.  Behavior needs to change and questions need to be asked and answered.

Richard Michalski